Is part of your home sporting those 70’s wood paneled walls? Before you paint the paneling, give these ideas a try first! Keep reading to find out how to make wood paneling look modern – without painting it! You might just be surprised at the outcome!
Not to be Captain Obvious, but I am all for making your home look good, especially considering this is primarily a home decorating blog.
I am all for updating those laminate countertops, hiding those popcorn ceilings, ripping up the wall-to-wall carpeting and other things of that nature.
But sometimes, every once in a while, I prefer to keep those “old” design aesthetics and work with them, instead of against them.
I’m talking about My Jungle Room, folks.
In the Jungle Room, or the den if you want to be so boring as to call it that, we kept the original wood paneling.
I will be the first to say that my initial instinct when I saw this space was to rip all the paneling out. However, budget and seeing a friend’s updated 70’s paneled walls in action helped to change my mind and give it a whirl. Here’s what the space looked like before:
Sexy, no? hehehehe
Now, here’s what I did to make that paneling work and look good.
How to Decorate Wood Paneling Without Painting It
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1. Paint the trim
Yes, there is some painting involved, but NOT of the paneling – just the trim around the paneling.
I first saw painted trim paired with paneling at my friend Kellie’s house. She had paneling in much of her den and kitchen and had painted the trim in those areas black. It gave off a really vintage, retro kind of vibe to me and I liked that.
I painted all the trim, the bookshelves, the ledge that runs along one side of the room and the fireplace Limousine Leather by Behr, which is my go-to black paint color. After doing that, the paneling was definitely looking better, but I wasn’t completely sold just yet.
2. Bring in solid colors on furniture.
From that point, I decided that to make the paneling more of a backdrop rather than a focal point, I needed to bring in more solid colors on the furniture.
Luckily, I found this sofa on Craigslist and it worked perfectly. It added more black into the space which helped to pull out the black on the trim even more.
I also brought in these solid navy side tables, which brought more color into the space. Side note: I am planning to paint these red, which I think will look even better in the jungle room.
3. Create multiple focal points.
I know. I’m probably breaking some design rule with this one. That never stopped me before and I certainly didn’t plan on letting it stop me now though. Once more, to make the paneling seem like more of a backdrop, I created two different focal points when you first walked into the room. The first was the fireplace.
By painting the fireplace a solid black, it actually stood out more, rather than blending into the paneling as it did before with the reddish bricks.
I also created another focal point above the sofa.
There, I used the ledge above the sofa to place a vintage brass lamp, the Ocean Avenue art, a family picture and antlers on the wall.
4. Use eye-catching art.
This one is kind of a no-brainer. What’s the best way to distract someone’s eye? Give them something eye-catching to look at.
Of course, you just saw the vignette above where I did this with the Ocean Avenue art above the sofa. I also did it on the fireplace mantel.
On the fireplace, I used a traditional piece of art, this cheetah print, and something a little non-traditional, but that grabbed the eye’s attention – those little red cowboy boots.
Also along the fireplace mantel is a framed record, mine and Grunt Labor’s song, and some DIY text art that also snags the eye with it’s red hue.
5. Layer in texture and pattern.
Not only did this final trick help to make the jungle room a tad more cozier, but it also brought in other elements that worked well with the paneling – texture and pattern.
The biggest way I brought these two things in was with the rug.
Without the rug, the floor would have been quite bland. The pattern and texture of the zebra print rug worked well to bring the eye to the floor.
Fur Throw / Malachite Side Table
I also added in more texture with the fur throw (which added to the jungle room vibe as well). The malachite side table brought in more color, which the room needed, as well as pattern.
I also used the snakeskin lamps, green throw pillow and black and cream pouf that you saw in earlier photos above to bring in more texture and pattern.
I realize wood paneling is still something many would prefer to ditch. That’s cool – to each his own. Around here though, we choose to decorate around wood paneling. You’ll find us here flying our freak flag in the jungle room clad with 70’s wood paneling – and loving every minute of it.
Share your tips for how to make wood paneling look good in the comments!
You might just find these posts interesting as well…
Full Jungle Room Makeover – the full before and after of this space.
The 70’s Landing Pad Home Tour – we embraced the split-level and went 70’s style – with a touch of glam for good measure.
How to Distract from Popcorn Ceilings – six ideas to help hide those popcorn ceilings without the mess of scraping them off!
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Anne Coles says
Kind of looks like shiplap, on end. Just kidding, it looks great!
Jenna @ Rain on a Tin Roof says
hahahaha! Oh, Anne!
I think if you are decorating a small room it is easy to have one focal point, but with a large room I have never learned how to just have one. I don’t think I do it intentionally it just happens, because you have things you absolutely want in that room and they are eye catching.
I’m glad you decided to paint the end tables red, I think that will be gorgeous in your jungle room I am lusting after this room. It is fun and comfortable everything you would want in a jungle room.
I don’t care for paneling in most rooms, but that black paint really updated the paneling and I can’t find anything not to love about it.
Jenna @ Rain on a Tin Roof says
Thanks, Patty! I’m so glad you like the room! I’m glad you agree about the focal points as well – sometimes you just need more than one!
Carol Jollymore says
I think you are a genius to achieve such a good look with panelling on the walls! I like the blue tables and think if it were me I would not paint them red. Black& red are done so often it becomes predictable. I would expand on the blue and green hues you have, a classy modern combo.
Thanks, Carol! Well, those tables haven’t gotten painted yet, so there’s a good chance they will stay the same! 😉
I love the black trim and fireplace! Great way to pull the room together. Thank you for sharing on Merry Monday! Hope to see ya next week!
Jann Olson says
Wood paneling takes me back big time! You’ve definitely added improvements. Thanks for sharing with SYC.
What a nice update to paneling! Love the animal print.
Donna @ Modern on Monticello says
I have a basement full of this stuff and have yet to tackle how to update it. This is a great idea. Thanks for sharing at #HomeMattersParty
Thank you for the wonderful hints! This provided practical inspiration for a basement redecoration that I will be tackling in the near future. Our room has a similar layout to the one featured, so this was really helpful.
Just came across this post when I was searching for wood paneled room. You did an AMAZING JOB! I love it!!!! Is it ok if I link to your post?
Cindie K. says
This makeover is fantastic!!!! I have old, impossible to paint or wallpaper to disguise 1980s paneling on the walls going up our steps from the first floor to the second and throughout the upstairs hallway. I have hated and detested the paneling for the 33 years I have lived in the house. (The paneling was on the walls when I married the love of my life). Now, I finally have some ideas, thanks to your makeover, for dealing with it!!!!! I plan to roll with it, as you did!!!!
Thank you for an outstanding article and for the reference to your friend’s paneled room makeover!
I love it too! I have paneling in my dining room, I decided long ago to keep it, I definitely love the black trim. I guess I need to put trim up.
Thank you for this! We inherited a beautiful north woods cabin and are minimally fixing it up on a budget- it is full of beautiful wood paneling I just can’t imagine and don’t want to paint!
Connie J Davis says
We have an older house. Kitchen, living room and 2 bedrooms are all different paneling. Please advise what we should do for the floors! Would like to replace with 1 floor covering for LR and both bedrooms the same, but not look like we are living in a toolbox..LOL
Thanks for the wonderful ideas. You room is gorgeous.
Lila Kelly says
I rent so I cannot do the painting. I will probably never own where we live in Co
A starter house is 700k so I have become very savvy with the wood paneling! lol we have a similar look!
Stephanie George says
I have a 1960 mid century house with a wood paneled family room. I decided to keep it. This is a great alternative to painting the whole thing and losing the character of the house. I’ve been trying to figure out how to introduce more black into the room and this just may be my answer! Thank you!
One question: where would you put a TV? Any ideas??